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Duluth Councilor Proposes City-Owned Casino

Updated: 07/08/2014 10:09 PM
Created: 07/08/2014 9:19 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Duluth residents are voicing frustration with the city's new street fee so one city councilor is proposing a new casino at the DECC to bring in more revenue.

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa stopped paying rent to the City of Duluth for the downtown casino in 2009. A legal battle over the payments continues, but the revenue from the Fond-du-luth Casino amounted to about $6 million a year, which the city used on street maintenance. 

City Councilor Howie Hanson said the lost revenue is the main reason the council passed a new street fee last month.

“They called that the street fee. I call it the casino revenue replacement fee,” Hanson said.

He hopes the city can work out a deal with the Fond du Lac Band by the end of the year. If not, his resolution will push the state legislature to change gambling laws to allow for city-owned casinos.

“The responses that I'm getting from legislators, from people all over the state is almost deafening in terms of it's time might be here,” Hanson said.

If the law changed, Hanson envisions a new casino taking over the DECC's Pioneer Hall. He said it could bring in more money than the Fond-du-luth deal.

“Imagine if we could set aside $6 million every year, if we could set aside $8 to $10 million to fix our streets,” Hanson said.

The Fond du Lac Band has heard the argument before. In a written statement Chairwoman Karen Diver said, “The gaming market is already saturated by existing mature operations. Mr. Hanson's idea is not new and has been part of the city's past rhetoric.”

Hanson said a new casino could take a tax burden off residents, but he's not sure how other councilors feel about the idea.

“There's no way to gauge where the council or the administration is on this issue,” Hanson said.

However, their opinions will be heard soon. The resolution is up for discussion at the city council's agenda meeting on Thursday, and Hanson expects the council to vote on the resolution on Monday.

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